Scouts

An attorney said there could be 40,000 to 50,000 abuse survivors who are eligible to file claims in the bankruptcy.GEORGE FREY/GETTY IMAGES/TNS

BY JOE ATMONAVAGE

NJ.COM

The Boy Scouts of America have filed for bankruptcy amid thousands of lawsuits nationwide, including dozens in New Jersey, accusing the organization of failing to protect children who say they were sexually abused by leaders within the organization.

The longstanding organization, which was founded in 1910 and has had more than 130 million youth members, filed the bankruptcy documents in federal court in Delaware around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The move by the Boy Scouts was expected, as the organization became inundated with lawsuits in recent years. States such as New Jersey, California and New York recently passed laws that expanded the statute of limitations for alleged sexual abuse victims to sue organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church.

“Scouting programs will continue throughout this process and for many years to come,” a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. “The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.”

In New Jersey, at least 27 civil lawsuits have been filed in state court since Dec. 1, when a new law went into effect that opened a two-year window for people to sue their alleged abusers and the institutions who supervised them.

“Make no mistake about it, by filing for bankruptcy the Boy Scouts are making a calculated decision to limit the consequences of allowing heinous sexual assaults to proliferate under their watch,” Michael T. Pfau, an attorney involved in the New Jersey cases, said in a statement.

MORE LEGAL ACTION

People who have filed civil claims against the Boy Scouts will likely have to file a claim with the bankruptcy court by a certain deadline or else they will likely lose their right to seek compensation from the Boy Scouts, according to Jay Mascolo, an attorney with New Brunswick-based law firm Rebenack Aronow Mascolo, which represents 25 alleged victims in New Jersey.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the Boy Scouts were working on a bankruptcy strategy that would allow it to pay victims while protecting the assets owned by the local councils across the country.

Seattle-based attorney Jason Amala, who is working with the New Jersey law firm on a number of cases, said there may be 40,000 to 50,000 abuse survivors who are eligible to file claims in the bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy filing comes on the heels of law firm Rebenack, Aronow and Mascolo serving the organization with a formal request to turn over files that the firm says will show the organization was “aware of the dangers posed to children for decades.”

“As we move forward with unprecedented legal action to ensure justice is served, this latest filing guarantees that the truth will come to light and that the Boy Scouts will finally face the consequences that are long overdue,” Pfau said recently.

Joe Atmonavage may be reached at jatmonavage@njadvancemedia.com. Follow on Twitter @monavage.

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